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Keeping terrorists from nation won't be easy, experts assert



Published: Sun, September 16, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



A Vindicator Web site poll showed that people prefer more immigration restrictions to combat terrorism.

By DAVID SKOLNICK

VINDICATOR POLITICS WRITER

YOUNGSTOWN -- If foreigners want to get into this country to commit acts of terror, they're going to find a way to do it even if the government toughens its immigration policies, a Liberty Township immigration lawyer says.

"If you want to get into the United States, you can because the border is so wide, said Atty. Grace Chan, who has practiced immigration law for eight years. "This country is so big. It is going to be a huge, huge task to check every person who comes in. It's impossible."

Chan has no doubt that there is going to be an increased presence at the country's borders and in airports. "But it is humanly and economically impossible to check everyone. How can you check every person?" she said.

About two-thirds of those who participated in a poll on The Vindicator's Web site about what step they would favor to prevent terrorism in the United States voted for more restrictive immigration laws over tougher airline travel restrictions and a neutral foreign policy.

Going too far? The federal government is working to make it more difficult for foreigners to enter the United States, but the government has to be careful not to go too far, said Stephen Yale-Loehr, a prominent immigration attorney who teaches at Cornell Law School in Ithaca, N.Y.

"We cannot deny people visas simply based on their national origin," he said. "I'm encouraged by our political leaders saying that we cannot go after all Muslims because of a few fanatics. Security measures are the key rather than cutting back on overall immigration to the United States."

Historically, immigration has proven to be extremely beneficial to the country and should not be curbed because of the recent terrorist attacks, Yale-Loehr said.

"We have to be careful that individuals we admit are coming for the right purposes," he said. "We can do that without having to change our whole immigration system."

Some of the terrorists involved in the attacks entered the United States through Canada. Because of that, it is not going to be as easy to get across that border anymore, Chan and Yale-Loehr said.

"It's going to take longer for all people coming into the United States, whether they're citizens or foreign nationals," Yale-Loehr said. "But as long as these are done carefully and appropriately, I think everyone is willing to wait a little bit longer to get into the country."

Soft border: Chan says the Canadian-United States line is a "soft border" and does not pose much of a challenge to a terrorist trying to get across it.

"We have a lot of trust in our neighbors to the north so the border is very soft," she said. "It's very easy to enter this country from the north."

Robert Goldsborough, president of the Washington, D.C.-based American Immigration Control, which favors immigration reforms, says the United States should double the number of personnel patrolling the borders and should receive assistance from the military to make sure the wrong people are not getting into this country.

"They could have been stopped if the current laws were enforced," he said of Tuesday's terrorist attacks. "The government will spend $40 billion on security measures because of the attacks. Had we spent a mere fraction of that at the borders and at airports before this, it might not have happened. Before Tuesday, Congress told us there was no money for this."

Traficant: One of American Immigration Control's strongest allies on Capitol Hill is U.S. Rep. James A. Traficant Jr. of Poland, D-17th. Traficant has repeatedly called for the United States to tighten its borders and to place the military there to stop the flow of illegal immigrants into this country.

Traficant will seek to include an amendment calling for troops along the nation's border in the House's Defense Authorization Bill, which could be considered this week, said Charles Straub, the congressman's spokesman. The House has approved the amendment in the past, but it died in the Senate. With the terrorist attacks, there is renewed hope of its approval, Straub said.

Among Goldsborough's suggestions to make the country safer from terrorist attacks is a reduction in the number of legal immigrants to about 300,000 annually. About 840,000 to 1 million immigrants legally and about 1.5 million to 3 million illegally enter this country annually, he said.

skolnick@vindy.com




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